PD Editorial: Sharing trade secrets for the greater good

  • File - In this June 10, 2014 file photo, Texas Gov. Rick Perry walks over to talk to reporters after driving up in a Tesla Motors Type S electric car in Sacramento, Calif. The Republican has made convincing top employers elsewhere to move to Texas a centerpiece of his administration. California has been a prime target, with Perry bashing what he calls the Golden State’s high-tax, over-regulated ways. But a New York Times Magazine story released Tuesday says Perry told the reporter “he loves California” and “might even move” there in January, when his term ends. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry likes poking California to promote his own state as a business-friendly destination. His latest stunt was cruising past the state Capitol in a Tesla Model S to encourage the electric car maker to build a battery factory in the Lone Star State.

Perry neglected to mention that, regardless of where those batteries are manufactured, you can't buy a Tesla in his state.

Tesla sells its own cars, which is prohibited in Texas by laws crafted to protect franchise car dealers from competition.

Still, as political theater, Perry's visit to Sacramento earlier this month was successful, garnering a few headlines and some TV time for one of several states, California included, competing for the factory.

However, it overshadowed a more substantive development involving the Palo Alto-based automaker and its outside-the-box approach. To pave the path for electric vehicles, Tesla announced that will freely share its technology. In other words, Tesla is giving away its corporate secrets.

"Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport," CEO Elon Musk said in a statement issued June 12. "If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property land mines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal."

Thus, Musk said, Tesla won't file patent lawsuits "against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology."

It sometimes seems as if Silicon Valley companies spend as much time litigating patents as innovating. But Musk is taking the long view — something all too often lacking in corporate America.

His company expects to produce and deliver about 35,000 cars this year — out of about 100 million new vehicles worldwide. That isn't even a rounding error. To fulfill his vision of a greener planet, Musk needs other manufacturers to shift their focus from gasoline-powered cars to electric cars.

Sharing his company's technology is one way to entice them. Indeed, within days of his announcement, BMW and Nissan expressed interest in collaborating on charging technology, according to news accounts.

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